Interview with Howling: Sacred Ground and The Art of Succeeding Gracefully

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story / Dominique Joelle

photos / Jon Bergman

On the heels of the release of their album, Sacred Ground, LADYGUNN scored a lovely interview with the down-to-earth electronic duo, Howling. The pair just wrapped the first half of their overseas tour with plans for an intimate Sacred Ground Festival near Berlin on July 11th. Both members, Ry Cuming (aka Ry X) and Frank Wiedemann, have significant followings of their own: –Ry, with his solo work and as a member of The Acid, and Frank, Innervisions label leader and member of duo Âme. Howling, after meeting on a Skype call, first collaborated a few years before, releasing the award-winning viral hit of the same name in 2012. Both have since described their abilities to collaborate as organic, Wiedemann noting that each of the songs on Sacred Ground stems simply from memories of touring and having fun together. The twosome talk details of their newest body of work and give us sound advice on how to make it in the industry without becoming soulless sacks of sellout shit.
Who is the intended audience for Sacred Ground?
Ry: You, us, anybody. You know, there’s no…demographic. The beauty of…what we’re doing, I think, or trying to do without trying…is records that kind of span genres and move across…scenes and age groups and – you know, there’s a lot of people in the club scene that love what we’re doing, and there’s a lot of people in the indie scene that know nothing about the club scene that love what we’re doing, and so that’s really cool, you know? We love to think of the idea that we can exist in different forms and different age groups.
Are there any musical or non-musical influences that may have been subconsciously or consciously injected into this work?
Ry: Everything we’ve ever experienced.
Frank: When we met we’d been on the same kind of journey, or like, changing points in our lives, and I think this has been reflected in the album a lot as well. If it’s the weather you see outside, if it’s the house you’re recording in, if it’s the surrounding of people you just had hanging around before, or the food that you just ate, it’s everything. Everything is connected, and also…it’s an inspiration.

What would you like the listener to walk away with after experiencing Sacred Ground?
Ry: Well, I guess it would be really nice if they had some kind of, you know, close connection to it. There’s a lot of—especially now—there’s a ton of electronic music coming out. Some of it good, some not so good—but a lot of the times in electronic music, you lose the intimacy. You lose the realness of it, you know, the life of it. So I think it’s really important that we have a connection with [whomever] we are playing to whether that’s live or on this record and just trying to get that across.
Is it fair to ask each of you what your favorite song from album might be?
Frank: I think my favorite would be “Lullaby.”
Ry: Yeah, we love that song…we played that song once in the studio, and the microphone happened to be on, and we recorded it… it’s like a free jam. We were on a train to France, I think—
Frank: —I listened to it first on the headphones, and I fell asleep, and then I gave it to Ry and I think you—
Ry: —I feel asleep, yeah, and then we gave it to Jens [Kuross], and Jens fell asleep, so we called it “Lullaby” because it was just this beautiful, long lament.
Were there any career or personal lows on your paths that influenced your music?
Frank: Yeah, I started not with the intention of being in any kind of success…and just started making music.
Ry: Yeah, I mean there [are] so many lows that you go through, you know, in anything, but it’s part of your growth. I mean I’ve – both of us – have played to empty – completely empty – rooms at some point in our lives. I’ve done everything to support music, you know? I’ve lived in LA on and off for ten years, and I’ve prostituted myself in commercials, and modeling, and you know, anything to make enough money to keep playing music – surf instructor and…actor in commercials. I mean, who the fuck wants to do that, really?
What, in each of your seasoned opinions, is the key to longevity in the music industry?
Frank: Honesty.
Ry: Yeah, being honest with yourself—I mean not getting caught up, you know? Both Frank and I have had, like, individual success, and there has been a lot of hype around either of us at certain times, and we’ve just decided not to… give into that need to try to be bigger and better like management or agents or labels want and just to… slow it all down and continue making music. You have to let the music lead, you know? As soon as you start not thinking about the art, the point is kind of lost. So you have to slow yourself down, slow your mind down, slow your ego down, and come back to a place of humility and start making work from there again. You need a lot of time and perspective to be a good artist.
Apart from drive and skill, what does it take to achieve your level of success doing what you love?
Ry: Well, you know, you have to make good music, and you have to be lucky as well, and you have to be patient, and you have to be giving. You have to give everything to music. Everything. I mean it will test your relationships. It will test your… family. It will test everything, and you have to be willing to make a lot of beautiful choices towards making art to create change… and to inspire people.
Frank: And don’t expect to make money.
Ry: Yeah! And don’t… have the expectations, of like, fame and fortune, you know? I mean… yeah, if you’re in it for that, you’re fucked.
What would you ask yourselves in an interview?
Ry: I’d probably ask why the fuck I decided to do multiple projects at the same time –and ask if I was crazy – and then my answer would be, ‘yes, I’m crazy.’ I don’t think people understand how difficult it is to give your work to the world. It’s so much energy; it’s so much output.
What purpose does Howling serve?
Ry: To make good music, hopefully.
Frank: To enjoy the time together.
Ry: Be mirrors for each other, be mirrors for other people.
Frank: Discovering new areas of music.
Ry: Challenging the industry a bit—I think we both like doing that. Challenging genre, challenging labels and PR and, you know, just doing it really honestly. No hype, no bullshit.
In true Howling fashion, Sacred Ground is exactly that—no hype, no bullshit. Featuring stunningly hypnotic singles, “Signs” and “Stole the Night,” the album, out now, is available here.
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